Learning outcomes of the course unit
By following this course, students will acquire an in-depth knowledge of an important chapter of the Greek reflection on democracy, and, more generally, of the functioning and institutional and social foundations of a political system. Students will be able to employ these newly acquired competences in terms of learning capacity, in particular by making comparisons with other contexts pertaining to both the ancient and contemporary world. All the more so, as the Athenian democracy has became a model for all the analogous political experiences of the western world. Thanks to the peculiar teaching methodology of the course, students will also be able to develop their capacity for independent judgment as well as their communications skills.
A good preparation on the political history of ancient Greece and a sufficient level of knowledge of the ancient Greek language.
Course contents summary
The course of Greek History is in a single Unit (6 CFU = 30 hours of frontal lessons plus some other hours of assisted didactic activity): November, 12th-December, 12th 2013.
The course, whose title is “The Athenian Constitution by Pseudo-Xenophon: a critique of the Athenian democracy and empire”, will consist in reading and commenting a brief text which has been handed on to us among the works of Xenophon, although he is most certainly not the actual author. This text contains a close critique – from an oligarchic point of view – of the Athenian democratic system and management of the empire in the second half of the 5th c. BCE, while throwing an interesting light on some issues never approached by any other source.
The first lessons will deal with the problems of attribution and dating of the text, with its precise nature, and with the political and cultural context in which the text was conceived. The detailed commentary of the text, which will occupy the rest of the lessons, will allow us to deal with a series of most interesting questions for the understanding of the Athenian society during the period of the Peloponnesian War: i.e. the political vocabulary, the sociology of the democracy, the relationships between Athens and its allies, the connection between democracy and war, and the emergence of an anti-democratic thought which will lead to the two coups d’état in 411 and 404 BCE.
The basic textbook to prepare the exam is the following:
“The ‘Old Oligarch’: the Constitution of the Athenians attributed to Xenophon”, edited with an introduction, translation and commentary by J. L. MARR and P. J. RHODES, Oxford, Oxbow Books, 2008.
The study of this textbook will be integrated with readings taken from the following texts:
G. SERRA (ed.), “La Costituzione degli Ateniesi dello Pseudo-Senofonte”, Roma, L’Erma di Bretschneider, 1979;
G. SERRA, “La forza e il valore. Capitoli sulla Costituzione degli Ateniesi dello Pseudo-Senofonte”, Roma, L’Erma di Bretschneider, 1979;
W. LAPINI, “Commento all’Athenaion Politeia dello Pseudo-Senofonte”, Firenze 1997;
M. I FINLEY, “La democrazia degli antichi e dei moderni”, ital. trans., Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2004;
U. BULTRIGHINI (ed.), “Democrazia e antidemocrazia nel mondo greco”, Atti del Convegno di Studi (Chieti, aprile 2003), Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2005;
L. CANFORA, “La democrazia ateniese”, con una postfazione di U. FANTASIA, Parma, MUP, 2011;
L. CANFORA, “Il mondo di Atene”, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2011;
M. CENTANNI, “La nascita della politica: la Costituzione di Atene”, Venezia, Libreria Editrice Cafoscarina, 2011;
K. A. RAAFLAUB - J. OBER - R. W. WALLACE, “Le origini della democrazia nella Grecia antica”, ital. trans., Milano, Edizioni Ariele, 2011.
Since the text at the centre of the course is particularly short, the 30 hours of frontal lessons should cover all the aforementioned contents. The frontal lessons will be integrated with seminars during which individual students will engage in in-depth analyses of specific topics (e.g. the dispensation of justice in the Athenian empire, and the role of slaves in the democracy), or will comment parts of the text only briefly dealt with in classes – all this with the aid of reference works and possible additional scholarship recommended by the teacher.
Assessment methods and criteria
Learning assessment will consist of an oral examination, which will weigh no less than 50% of the final grading. The minimum requirement to pass the exam is for the student to be able to properly translate and comment a part of the text proposed by the teacher during the exam, and to demonstrate an adequate mastery of the topics dealt with in the frontal lessons. The rest of the final grading will be assessed during the seminars and will depend on the student’s capacity to properly develop his/her own research on the topic agreed upon with the teacher, to present the results by using the adequate specialized vocabulary, and to demonstrate a certain competence in dealing with research tools and methodology.